|'As Harvey Keitel once said in an entirely different film: "Just because you are a character, doesn't mean that you have character" - a sentiment which could easily be applied to any number of characters in Star Trek Beyond'.|
As the third entry of the rebooted sci-fi franchise, it's not surprising to find that all the key members of the Enterprise crew now feel very comfortable in their roles from Star Trek Beyond's opening moments onwards. In one sense, this is a good thing. It's easy to jump straight back into the dynamics between Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Bones (Karl Urban) and the rest, allowing the film to get on with matters straight away, providing entertainment from very early on with little introduction necessary.
The downside is that nobody here ever feels like they're pushing themselves to do anything we haven't seen before. Even the fact that the crew become split into smaller groups at the start of the middle act doesn't provide a great deal of new dimensions between them, even though the situation feels at least partly manufactured by writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung to do just that. As Harvey Keitel once said in an entirely different film: "Just because you are a character, doesn't mean that you have character" - a sentiment which could easily be applied to any number of characters in Beyond.
The new additions fare no better. Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), who initially teams up with Scotty (Pegg), is given a flimsy personal tragedy backstory that may as well not be there. Idris Elba is largely wasted as Krall, a villain whose plans are outdone in their vagueness only by his motivations. Compared to the last two films, Beyond lacks the sense of magnitude and hierarchy that hitherto characterised Starfleet, and was previously backed up through performances from the likes of Bruce Greenwood and Peter Weller. There's simply nobody to pick up the mantle of either actor here, and despite the grand introduction of the Yorktown Starbase in the opening act it's never nearly as impressive as it should be.
Despite these flaws, director Justin Lin still manages to make his franchise debut a great deal of fun. The action is never jaw-dropping, but it gets the job done. Structurally and aesthetically, Beyond feels like the first installment of the new series to be a direct homage to the 1960s TV show, a decision by Pegg and Jung that's almost certainly intentional. Whilst it allows for some enjoyable sequences throughout, it also gives the plot the sense of being a TV episode stretched out to become feature-length a little too often to overlook.
There's also a sense that Beyond is in many ways a response to the negative backlash experienced by Into Darkness following its initial critical acclaim. The focus on brighter and more straightforward entertainment here is regularly welcome, but it also comes at the expense of many of the intricacies which made J. J. Abrams' films more than just brainless summer blockbusters. Whilst Beyond could never justifiably be called brainless, it's definitely the closest the series has come since its 2009 reboot.